It’s been said that no one dreams of someday becoming an academic administrator. It’s a tough job that’s only gotten more challenging as budgets shrink, public scrutiny rises, and responsibilities continue to grow. But what does it really take to be an effective leader?
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The faculty members in the chemistry department are confused.
Last semester, the campus teaching center held a series of workshops to get faculty more familiar with the anti-plagiarism tool that the university adopted and linked into everyone’s online course environment. The teaching center showed everyone who attended the training sessions 51 ways that they could help to catch cheaters, based on research conducted by two researchers at the University of Texas’ Telecampus (McNabb and Anderson, 2009). But the 51 strategies are not why the chemistry faculty are confused.
Incivility and lack of collegiality are on the rise in institutions of higher education (Cipriano, 2011). This phenomenon can range from disputes and tension at one end of the spectrum to violence at the other. There are many departments that suffer from non-collegial, uncivil, and nasty encounters between faculty members, faculty members and professional staff, and faculty members and students.
Over the past few years, I have realized that most of the preparation for academic leadership is focused on how to effect institutional change and make a positive difference. These certainly are the “big ticket” items. The truth is, however, that such broad topics don’t really hit on the blocking and tackling of daily management. With that in mind, here is a little collective wisdom that may prove especially useful for those who are beginning their journey in academic affairs.
Most higher education institutions are not organized to encourage, support, and reward collaboration. Yet, collaboration—across disciplines, functional units, institutions, and organizations—is a highly effective way of dealing with complex issues.
Editor’s Note: Today we feature part 2 of Dr. Greenstreet’s “10-Point Survival Guide to Being, and Staying, an Academic Leader.” If you missed part 1, please click here for yesterday’s post.
6. Talk straight: Someone once said: “Sincerity is the key to good leadership — if you can fake that, you’re in.”
While entering the administrative ranks of academia might seem a formidable task, staying there presents a whole other series of challenges. The average length of stay for a dean, vice chancellor, or chancellor can often be fewer than five years and in some programs, the duration of leadership has been known to be considerably shorter.
For six years, Cecilia McInnis-Bowers and E. Byron Chew served as dean-partners for the division of business and graduate programs at Birmingham-Southern College, taking shared leadership beyond a simple division of labor by working together on every decision, jointly advising students, and conducting each meeting and telephone call together.
When John Pyle was vice president at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, one of his goals was to focus the campus’s energy on implementing the operational plan. “There was a lot of energy once the strategic plan was developed, but we kind of lost steam in implementing the operational plan,” he says.